Search Search Google
Volume 16, Issue 44 - October 30 - November 5, 2008
Home \\ This Week's Features \\ Classifieds \\ Dining Guide \\ Home & Garden Guide \\ Editorial \\ Letters to the Editor \\ Archives \\ Distribution Locations

Could You Be Living With A Ghost?

Is that static in your life a short circuit — or a stuck spirit?

by Eileen Slovak

I don’t see ghosts, but I’ve spoken with people who do, from ghostly hands and floating heads to whole or partial transparent human forms. It’s rumored that if you talk about ghosts too much, you draw them near. Now that I’m reporting and writing about them, perhaps I’ll soon see ghosts, too.

Why is it my proposal for this article appeared on my screen in a bizarre illegible font? Maybe I hit a wrong button … or maybe I have more than one editor on this project.

Is my spine prickling because my curiosity has opened a door? And if that’s so, who’s passing through: the ghost or me?

The Ghosts Among Us

Ghostly curiosity is heightened in autumn, as Halloween nears.

But ghosts keep paranormal expert Beverly Litsinger of Randallstown busy year-round. Litsinger, president of the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association, has been helping people with their ghostly dilemmas for a dozen years, but she has been talking to ghosts — and photographing them — all of her life. She was with one when I called.

Betty, the ghost, was lying on her reluctant host’s bed, holding a red purse. But Betty wasn’t the reason Litsinger visited this Baltimore County home. Another ghost, a male, was wreaking havoc. He had broken mirrors and windows, hidden money and thrown an iron through the TV. Fed up, the ghost's reluctant host sought out Litsinger. Now the ghost was refusing to talk.

Among Litsinger’s special gifts is the ability to converse with ghosts. She uses her skill to educate them about a harsh fact: They are dead. Once she helps them to see the light, she advises they move toward it.

However, like the people they once were, ghosts can be stubborn and refuse to leave. This was the problem Litsinger was having with the destructive ghost. While she was trying to reach an agreement with him, he threw a picture frame at her.

“You can live with ghosts; it happens all the time. They’re just people,” Litsinger says. “They have free will, just like we do. But if they have unfinished business here on earth, they remain until it’s resolved.” This part requires help from the living — provided we get the message.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Communication with the living can be frustrating for ghosts because they operate at a different plane, spiritual versus earthly.

Humans who can’t see them may hear them and yet still not acknowledge the source. Meanwhile ghosts are burning up their precious energy trying to reach us, perhaps just to be acknowledged.

Ringing doorbells, footsteps, tapping, knocking, electronics, music and lights going on and off, voices, clothes thrown from closets and drawers, items moved, cold spots and tugs on hair: All those are signs of haunting noted by Echo Bodine in her book, Relax, it’s only a Ghost!

Doorbell ringers had recently started pestering my house. I had dismissed it as pranks of local teens. Now I wonder what it really is.

Just as we living do, ghosts use electronic devices to reach out, Litsinger says. They enjoy changing radio and television stations, and they may drain the energy from batteries and electronic devices. So if you’re having electronic troubles, the static might be ghosts.

Ghostly attraction to electronics may stem from idle curiosity — or from their own composition.

“Ghosts are made of energy and electricity,” says Mike Carter, who has operated Annapolis Ghost Tours since 2003. As a hobby, Carter studies physics and searches for scientific proof that ghosts exist. Perhaps the ghosts do the same, trying to prove to us that they exist.

Figments of the Imagination

Are we talking the figments of the overexcited imaginations of addled ghost hunters? It stands to reason that ghosts are soft, but do we have any hard evidence they exist?

Eye-witness accounts may be no more than ghost stories. Indisputable physical evidence is hard to come by.

Litsinger uses an electro-magnetic field detector to track ghostly energy. She starts by finding cold spots in the room, then uses her EMS to record high levels of electricity with no earthly explanation. She also uses a camera because, she says, “people believe what they can see.” Because ghosts move fast, she shoots with 800-speed film or a digital camera. Before she shoots, she always asks permission.

Carter’s strategies are different. He researches Annapolis archives to support and explain ghost sightings and posts photographs from his ghost tours on his website.

Kim Hammond, director of Paranormal Investigation at Point Lookout State Park, a former Civil War POW camp, uses a digital voice recorder to track EVP, Electronic Voice Phenomenon. Hammond is in charge of Point Lookout’s paranormal nights, when the curious join in ghost investigations. During these events, other-worldly voices and sounds — wispy or startlingly clear — can sometimes be recorded. Once Hammond recorded her own name, Kim, called by a ghost.

The caller was likely one of the 4,000 Confederate soldiers who perished from disease in 1865. Spirits sighted at Point Lookout, at the tip of St. Mary’s County, include a ghostly soldier who walks near the lighthouse and an old woman who searches in the picnic area for graves that have since washed away.

Annapolis Apparitions

Paranormal activity is alleged in many parts of Maryland, from Point Lookout to Baltimore. But historic Annapolis is rumored to be one of the most haunted cities in the U.S. Pricking with anxiety, I set out to see for myself.

Before I’d even parked the car, I spotted a man in period costume floating up the street. Great, I thought. Now I’m seeing ghosts. Could my friend see him, too? She could. As he drew nearer, I identified him as a costumed tour guide on a Segway scooter.

The Maryland State House, the oldest state house still in continuous use, once served as the nation’s capital. A centerpiece of downtown Annapolis, the State House boasts the largest wooden dome in the United States. During its construction, on February 23, 1783, plasterer Thomas Dance fell 100 feet to his death. Or was he pushed?

Looking up at the dome from its surrounding walkway, I felt the hair on my head standing on end. Humidity, I thought. Later, in Ed Okonowicz’s book Annapolis Ghosts: History, Mystery, Legends and Lore, I read that others felt the presence of Thomas Dance on the walkway.

As Litsinger explains, our bodies react this way when a ghost is very near to us. A ghostly visit feels like an invasion of personal space. It also feels like fear.

I went home wondering skeptically; then the garage door opened apparently of its own accord. I was certain I hadn’t pushed the button, but then again I was distracted by thoughts of ghosts.

Fright Night

Facing my fear head on, I returned to the capital to join the Annapolis Ghost Tour. Just in case, I carried holy water in my purse.

First I dined innocently at the Ram’s Head Tavern, unaware that the Tavern was home to a ghost named Amy.

Tour guide Caroline Heinlein — dressed in black with a necklace of bones around her neck — led 10 wanderers on a creepy romp through the dark streets.

Amy, Heinlein said, liked to break bar glasses and operate unplugged calculators. She is so fond of hearing her own name that she once convinced a new tavern worker that every female working there was named Amy.

Amy … Why is that name so familiar? Then it hit me. I had been trying to reach a contractor for days. A man kept calling the house and asking for Amy. My contractor had been calling me, but he had written my name down as Amy!

The ghost of Joseph Simmons, also known as Joe Morgue, stalks St. Anne’s Episcopal Church cemetery. Simmons, the church bell ringer and gravedigger, died in 1836. Yet ever since, the lanky old man has been sighted in the last pew of the church and on the path where we stood.

Heinlein added that ghosts like to follow us home. I thought about my garage door again. To avoid uninvited guests, we recited a poem in unison while tossing corn kernels to the ground:

“Rattling bones
and polished stones
and golden seeds
push out evil deeds,
may blessed spirits
protect us please!”

For the remainder of the tour, I looked over one shoulder.

Giving up the Ghost

If you believe you are being haunted, you can try to handle the ghost yourself, or you can call on an expert.

I’m still partial to holy water, but Bodine suggests spraying the ghost with air freshener. Maybe ghosts are environmentalists and consider aerosol cans the enemy.

Asking a ghost to leave in a firm voice may also do the trick. Follow up by burning sage, an old Native American tradition for cleansing an area of negative energy.

I made a mental note to call the electrician about my garage door. If he calls back for Amy, I’ll be calling Beverly Litsinger.

Eileen Slovak is haunted in Chesapeake Beach.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.